On 26 October 2015, Nicolas Schmit, Minister for Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy, and Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Minister for Immigration and Asylum, participated in the 15th "Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership" (FEMIP) Conference organised in Luxembourg by the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Entitled "Innovation, Business Spirit and Jobs: Promoting Pioneering Investments in the Mediterranean Basin", the conference provided experts, representatives from the private sector, the public sector, civil society and universities with the opportunity to debate on innovation and business spirit in the private sector as well as on financial instruments which support and contribute to the accelerated growth of businesses in the region.
FEMIP, created in 2002, brings together all the EIB actions to support socio-economic development in the partner Mediterranean countries of the European Union to support growth and job creation. The Facility provides support to the private sector and participates in the creation of an environment which promotes investment through improvements to infrastructure.
Nicolas Schmit: "The refugee crisis is the latest illustration of the importance of a stable neighbourhood"
In his opening speech, Nicolas Schmit highlighted the importance of "inclusive growth" to "gain the confidence" of EU citizens and "neighbours to the South". He talked about the FEMIP as an "extraordinary instrument" to achieve these aims. "The Presidency believes that Europe must intensify its efforts in the area of cooperation with our partner countries to the South", he continued, highlighting that "the refugee crisis is the latest illustration of the importance of a stable neighbourhood".
In this context, "fruitful" cooperation in the area of employment is essential according to him. That is why the Presidency has launched a proposal for an initiative aimed at "promoting employment amongst young people in the countries of the Maghreb by investing in education and professional training".
This had been presented during the joint meeting with Employment Ministers from the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) organised within the framework of the EPSCO Informal Council on 16-17 July 2015. "We must intensify our commitment in the fight against youth unemployment and build a North-South partnership around this common goal; this has been widely agreed upon", indicated Nicolas Schmit. "Although national contexts may vary, youth unemployment is a common challenge on both sides of the Mediterranean", he added, while also talking about concerns for stability and security, and the shared desire for social and economic development.
Specifically, the youth employment initiative is based on "a complementary approach" to the efforts already made in the three countries in question. It focuses on investment in qualifications and skills mainly to find a better balance between supply and demand for jobs.
"Promoting a business spirit, in particular among young people, is one of the principal means of creating jobs", explained Nicolas Schmit.
"Working closely with the EIB and Union for the Mediterranean, the Presidency is in the process of establishing a road map for this initiative, which should be launched during the ministerial meeting on 1 December in Barcelona", announced the Minister.
Jean Asselborn: "Only by working together will we be able to provide a response to the migratory challenges"
On closing the conference, the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, highlighted that the FEMIP, "a key reference of the economic and financial Euro-Mediterranean partnership", was the expression of the EU's long-term cooperation policy with the countries of the Mediterranean and a "key player" in the area.
The Minister insisted in this regard on the necessity to strengthen this partnership further in view of the numerous mutual interests of both parties, and pointed to the fight against threats in the area of security, improving governance, human rights and democracy, as well as the challenges linked to migrations.
"It"s only by working together with the countries of origin, transit and destination for migrants, that we will be able to provide a response to the challenges posed by migratory movements in the Mediterranean", he added. According to him, these movements should press decision-makers to fulfil their responsibilities. "This is what we tried to do yesterday in Brussels (and I really mean "tried")", declared the Minister in reference to the meeting dedicated to the migratory crisis on the Western Balkans route, the day before.
Jean Asselborn also emphasised that it was not sufficient to tackle the symptoms of this phenomenon but rather the deep causes, in particular the development of inequalities, conflicts and the absence of the rule of law.
In this context, the Minister highlighted that during the Valletta Summit on migration, which will take place 11 and 12 November 2015 along with many African countries, the EU should also place emphasis on legal migration and devise a strategy in this area. In his view, the EU cannot limit itself to only discussing the policy of return and readmission with African countries.
Jean Asselborn also mentioned the necessity to provide enough funds to finance the package of measures needed to manage the migratory problem. According to him, the EU has to provide an aid budget for Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, in order for those countries to "provide prospects" for the Syrian refugees who find themselves in their territory, especially concerning education and access to the labour market.